Islanders center Mathew Barzal looks on against the San Jose...

Islanders center Mathew Barzal looks on against the San Jose Sharks in the third period of an NHL hockey game at UBS Arena on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

DETROIT — The Islanders could be without top-line center Mathew Barzal, their latest player to enter COVID-19 protocol this season, for at least five games. They can’t afford for their offense to be absent as well.

It mostly was until the third period on Tuesday night as the Red Wings won, 2-1, at Little Caesars Arena.

"We were losing too many battles in our own end," defenseman Noah Dobson said. "That’s what caused too much zone time. We were running around a bit. Once we fixed our battle level in the third, it was a lot better."

The last-place Islanders (7-12-5) did make it interesting at the end as they outshot the Red Wings (14-12-3) by 15-7 in the final 20 minutes.

"Just too many lapses in our own end that gave them some opportunities to keep momentum, especially in that second period," said captain Anders Lee, who cut the lead in half at 17:27 of the third period by deflecting in Dobson’s shot with goalie Ilya Sorokin (37 saves) off for an extra skater.

Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (33 saves) then gloved Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s hard shot milliseconds after the final buzzer sounded.

In the end, it was another frustrating loss for a team that hasn’t won consecutive games since Nov. 4-6 but was coming off an encouraging, 4-2, win over the Devils at UBS Arena on Saturday night.

"Yeah, especially to lose the game like that, you saw how we had success in third," said Brock Nelson, who was denied at the crease by Nedeljkovic’s lunging save at 19:37 of the second period off a three-on-one-rush led by Anthony Beauvillier. "We didn’t do it early enough to give us a better chance and put us in a better spot."

Coach Barry Trotz announced before the game Barzal had been placed in COVID-19 protocol and said after the loss Barzal had tested positive and would remain quarantined in Detroit.

The Islanders’ COVID -19 outbreak started with Josh Bailey testing positive on Nov. 16 and quarantining in Florida. Lee, Ross Johnston, Kieffer Bellows, Casey Cizikas and defensemen Adam Pelech, Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene followed, and all have returned to the lineup.

"It’s not easy to see a fellow guy go down," said Cizikas, who before Barzal was the last Islander to test positive on Nov. 27. "You hope he’s OK. You hope he’s not having any serious symptoms and, as a team, we move forward. It’s that next-man-up mentality."

The Islanders had games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28 and at Philadelphia on Nov. 30 postponed because of their COVID-19 outbreak.

The durable Barzal could miss the five games leading into the NHL’s holiday break from Dec. 24-26 if he remains in quarantine for the full 10 days. Prior to Tuesday, Barzal had played in all but one game since joining the Islanders’ lineup on a full-time basis to start the 2017-18 season.

Barzal is on a six-game point streak, with one goal and eight assists in that span. Five of the assists came on the power play, which was 5-of-13 the last six games but 0-for-1 without a shot on goal on Tuesday.

Dylan Larkin’s power-play goal at 10:32 of the second period with defenseman Scott Mayfield off for hooking him gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead on Sorokin’s lone bad moment. Sorokin tried to use his blocker to knock away Larkin’s wrist shot from the high slot but, instead, deflected the puck in.

Michael Rasmussen’s laser shot past Sorokin’s blocker as he kept the puck on a two-on-one rush made it 2-0 at 12:55 of the third period.

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